Have you ever found yourself frustrated because someone came to you with a problem, and then didn’t take your advice on how to solve it? Often, we chalk this up to a lack of motivation. But the truth is that often we are trying to solve the wrong problem.
Because we want to help, it’s easy to jump in and try to offer solutions when someone we care about is struggling. But to truly help, it’s much more effective to ask questions instead of offer advice. If we ask the right questions, people will often figure out the best solution for themselves.
For example, a friend of mine was worried that she was eating out at McDonald’s too much. As tempting as it was to offer her easy recipes that she could make on the run, or suggest that she create a meal plan for the week on Sundays so that she could be more organized, instead, I asked her: “How would your life be better if you didn’t eat out at McDonald’s so much?”
She replied that people wouldn’t judge her so much.
While initially I thought this was an issue of nutrition or time management, in reality, it was an issue of self-confidence. If I had jumped to offering solutions, I’m pretty sure she would have found none of them very helpful. But when we talked more about her feelings of being judged, I could see that we were on the right track.
This question is also very powerful when someone wants something that is impossible. For example, if a child is obsessed with being a rock star, and you ask “How would your life be better?” you might find out that they would have more friends, or that they would get to be the center of attention, or that it would be fun to sing every day. And while being a rock star may be out of reach, doing something to make friends or get recognition or have more fun is certainly achievable.
The question “How would your life be better?” works because it gets beyond the “want” to what the need is behind a person’s desire. Once you are addressing needs, you’ll find there are endless ways to creatively meet them!